Throw in the Towel? Never!

Before Modification . . .
“Bad Dawg”
Final Version
watercolor 21 x 21 inches

Years ago, as I was learning to paint and making a few hundred attempts per year, I found only a few of those to be “good” paintings.

Now, as I believe that I know a little more about the structure of a painting, I am very reluctant to accept that a painting is finished too early. Now, I seek a greater complexity than before. But it is waaaaaay more than just complexity. It has to do with balancing all the relationships.

Recently, I heard it said that a symphony is marshalling all the relationships of sounds so that the magnificence of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Wow! Is that ever true for the painter, too!

The act of creating balance and unity among the relationships is the crux of painting fine work. There is intense mental strife in that effort for me. In other words, it is a continuous battle to adjust and modify until everything fits. And so many, many times in the progress of a piece I mutter “just give it up!”

I am finding, as I grow artistically, that it isn’t always one’s ability to paint as it is the willingness to risk failure over and over until a painting is finished. Every alternative must be tested, sometimes tried, to determine if the painter has gone too far or not far enough. At some point, making new marks threatens to spoil weeks of work. And it sometimes does.

When it does, should I quit and begin again? That is one possibility. Or, should I attempt removal of the mark, or modification of the rest of the painting?

I say never quit! Take the piece all the way to near ruin before giving in. Lifting paint out of a watercolor is not easy, but it is possible. Overwork? Of course! There is a patina which develops which can sometimes be most attractive and displays a bit of history of what the artist did to complete a piece if it is overworked.

This piece, “Bad Dawg,” is one such piece that suffered through several different endings before I finally stated, ‘that is enough.’ Overworked? Perhaps. Muddy? Some would say “yes.” Sophisticated? Maybe. In the end, taste prevails. Your taste? What does it say?

In the process of becoming more accomplished, learning to accept failure as a companion is absolutely necessary. The biggest part of that, I believe, is NEVER giving up.

12 thoughts on “Throw in the Towel? Never!”

  1. Isn't that a part of what makes watercolour so exciting? Ooooh that delicious moment when you know you are risking it, but there is something inside that says you are going to do it anyway?

    Now I want to get back to my bigger pieces, to get that thrill again! Off the computer, back to the studio… living on the edge with drops of pigment and water does it for me!

  2. Delicious painting, Mike! To be so brave and carry on…working…trying to get to the end in a good place. It's hard but your blog is so inspiring and educational. I still don't know how you lifted all that dark color off, though.

  3. No mud whatsoever – a beautiful piece! And from what I can tell in my experiments with the medium, layering seems to be what watercolor is all about. Finally, although I am not anywhere near where you are experience-wise, I have learned that everything I do goes through a gangly adolescence before it reaches maturity. It is part of the growth of the work. And I second RH in wanting to know – how did you get rid of all that dark color?

  4. WOW! Mike your art chops never cease to amaze me;-) I love, love the way this abstract was resurrected and revived…gives me a push to review some of my "oldies". Thank you for this blog, posting your musings, and teachings, it has been inspirational, and, at times, just the kick start I needed to get going again.
    It was great to bump into you at Steven Quiller's demo. my best, ang

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  6. An assault on the senses,another example of wizardy from the Santa Cruz Kid. I would have been thrilled with it after Round 1, but agree the square delivered the KO. May have been a struggle, but it doesn't show…bet there's not a single spot of paint on the golf sweater. 🙂

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